Today's guest post is by Peppercommer and RepChatter Co-host Deb Brown. Be sure to check out Deb's blog, StandUpExecutive.com.
The pink slime crisis for the beef industry has certainly been an interesting one to watch, especially in terms of the industry’s reputation and transparency (or lack thereof). Those for eliminating the pink slime from ground beef are concerned that the filler, once used for dog food, is now being consumed by humans, especially since it’s sprayed with ammonia. Those in favor believe that it’s safe, keeps beef prices in check and saves 1.5 million cows per year from being slaughtered.
For years, the beef industry has been calling the pink slime “lean, finely textured beef,” which certainly sounds better than the “pink slime” phrase coined by US Department of Agriculture scientist Gerald Zirnstein in a 2002 email.
What caught the beef industry by surprise, and what shouldn’t have, was the fact that social media, combined with a report from ABC-TV, emotionally grabbed the public and put consumers into action.
Just as one young woman fought Bank of America over a monthly five dollar fee with an online petition, a Texas mom and blogger quickly sprang into action, collecting more than 200,000 signatures in nine days, asking the USDA to remove the pink slime from school cafeterias. It also came to light that McDonald’s, Burger King and Taco Bell no longer use hamburger meat laced with ammonia and pink slime. These major brands, of course, add a lot of weight to the opponents’ argument. After all, if the “kings” of fast-food beef refuse to sell it to the public, then how could we possibly allow our children to consume this in school or purchase the slime in supermarkets?
One quote that jumped out at me in the articles was from USDA spokesperson Mike Jarvis who said, “We think it’s a safe product.” The operative word here is “think.” Thinking a product is safe and knowing a product is safe are two different things.
The beef industry has “herd” the cry from consumers loud and clear. And, here are three things that they need to learn moving forward:
1) Calling something by a different name doesn’t make it any healthier or safer. The filler is still disgusting.
2) Don’t ever underestimate the power of social media and consumers.
3) Remember….every word and message counts. Saying “think” instead of “know” leaves the door wide open to scrutiny.
I don’t eat much meat to start with. But, if I decide to order pasta with meatballs, I’ll make sure to tell the waiter to hold the slime and the ammonia.